The Character of Los Alamos

Trinity on the Hill Episcopal Church


The community of Los Alamos has a distribution of attitudes that is in many ways similar to those found in other small towns, but at the same time uniquely different. Because of the high proportion of advanced college-degree holders, support is especially strong for excellent public education and a good library system. The level of education also makes for a well-informed and diverse set of opinions. Newcomers are welcome because most living here did not grow up locally but arrived after completing their education elsewhere. Perhaps it is the broad set of connections made in higher education that leads to an acceptance of diversity, both cultural and ethnic, in our community.

In the early days of the town, when it was a “secret city”, the people who lived here, in relatively spartan conditions, had to make their own entertainment, and provide their own community support for each other. That attitude still prevails, giving the community a special flavor of camaraderie and willingness to pitch in and help neighbors and the community.

Los Alamos is primarily a socially liberal community but has an underlying set of conservative values. Faith and religion are important to the community, as evidenced by the large number of churches; however, we also have a substantial segment of agnostics and atheists who are also accepted. When people are asked why they choose to live in Los Alamos as opposed to other areas with similar employment opportunities, the answer is often because it is such a great place to live and raise a family. The level of volunteerism is high. Los Alamos citizens obey the law and expect others to do the same, so the level of crime is low and people feel safe here

Los Alamos has frequently been ranked among the best towns in the country for safety, health, schools, and quality of life (for example, by CNN, Best Places, US News, and Travel and Leisure). This is a town where small children can still walk to school unaccompanied and in safety.

We have a strong sense of duty to the nation, mainly because much of the population is either employed at or retired from Los Alamos National Laboratory, which has as its principal mission support for the nation’s nuclear deterrent. For more information go to https://www.losalamosnm.us/.

To get some sense of the day-to-day life of the community, see the online Los Alamos Daily Post.

Newcomers are sometimes confused by the difference between Los Alamos and White Rock, which are two halves of the same town. Both communities are part of Los Alamos, both within Los Alamos County, which has the same boundaries as the town, both served by the same school system, police and fire services, library system, etc. Los Alamos proper sits at the top of Main Hill Road, right next to the mountains, on a series of high mesas, while White Rock sits on a shelf slightly lower, overlooking the Rio Grande River. Historically, Los Alamos was a closed city behind fences and guard gates (mostly gone now), while White Rock was the community outside the gates where support staff lived. Now White Rock offers comfortable community living and numerous amenities to complement those of Los Alamos.


Los Alamos National Laboratory

It would be difficult to overstate the importance of the Lab to our parishioners, townspeople, and surrounding communities. Because it is the major employer in the region, the vast majority (+/-75%) of our church families have members who either work there or have retired from it. LANL is a sprawling (43 sq. miles), multidisciplinary, scientific and engineering research laboratory that was founded in 1943 to develop the atomic bomb. Since the war years, the mission and scope of the Lab have diversified tremendously from the original charge to develop nuclear weapons. LANL is engaged in basic and applied research in many different areas, including biology, medicine, chemistry, physics, earth and space science, energy, mathematics, computing, and sensor technology.  For example, the photographs from the Mars Rovers are coming from cameras developed at the Lab. The emphasis of its mission is on science and engineering that support all aspects of national security, including nuclear weapons.

Thus, it would be inaccurate to characterize modern-day Los Alamos as a town of only “bomb builders.” On the other hand, a spirit of contributing to national security and world stability remains strong among the people who live and work here. This information is relevant to any potential incoming rector for several reasons. First, the technical nature of the work performed at the Laboratory requires a high level of education. Many parishioners hold advanced degrees in engineering, physics, and related fields. The new rector should feel comfortable ministering to and working with individuals possessing diverse scientific and technical backgrounds. Furthermore, a priest with strong anti-nuclear (weapons or energy) sentiments would find it difficult to minister effectively to the parish and relate to the community. We are proud of our contributions to our nation’s security and hope that our new priest would feel likewise. Finally, many members of the parish hold government security clearances. This capability places a special responsibility on priests providing pastoral care to these individuals. For more information on the Lab, go to www.lanl.gov.


Leisure and Cultural Opportunities in Los Alamos

Because of the proximity of the Lab, Los Alamos has more substantial services than many towns of its size, including a 47-bed acute care hospital, a local airport, exceptionally well-trained and well-equipped fire and police departments, and a volunteer search and rescue unit. Our local branch of the University of New Mexico offers associate degrees and a few bachelor degrees, as well as dual-credit courses with the high school.

Our town offers a wealth of outlets for the physically and culturally active. We are blessed at TOTH with many talented individuals who enjoy exercising, performing, and competing in many of the activities available in Los Alamos. The town is beautifully located on the Pajarito Plateau (elevation 7300 feet), adjacent to the Jemez Mountain range. Los Alamos has extensive local trails for hiking and/or biking and offers beautiful views in every direction. The town also hosts a number of annual marathons, triathlons, and bike races, such as the Jemez Mountain Trail Runs and the Tour de Los Alamos bicycle race.

Los Alamos has the Pajarito Mountain ski area just behind the town, with 44 ski trails and 6 ski lifts, and an active ski club. The Larry R. Walkup Aquatic Center is the highest-elevation Olympic-sized swimming pool in the USA, and in addition has a heated therapy pool and has just added a new leisure pool for families. Many foreign national swimming teams come here for high-altitude training. The Los Alamos County Golf Course is a full 18-hole course. We have 19 county tennis courts around town, a skateboard park next to our public library, a splash pad for children next to the library branch in White Rock, and an ice rink. North Mesa offers an area for stabling horses, and Los Alamos hosts an annual rodeo in the summer.

We have a vital musical culture, including the Los Alamos Choral Society, the Los Alamos Community Winds, the Los Alamos Symphony Orchestra, and the Los Alamos Hill Stompers, as well as many smaller singing and instrumental groups.  The Los Alamos Concert Association offers five major classical concerts a year, and the county sponsors the free Los Alamos Summer Concert Series outdoors around Ashley Pond. Theater is represented by the Los Alamos Little Theater and the Los Alamos Light Opera. Both Dance Arts Los Alamos and El Pointe School of Dance offer youth and adult ballet training, and Belisama Irish Dance offers Irish step dancing lessons and a performance company. In addition, it is only a short scenic drive to the world-renowned Santa Fe Opera and extensive musical and art scene of Santa Fe.